How to Choose Best Healthy Oil for Cooking


  • Choose healthy oils.
  • Oils are high in calories, so use sparingly.

Cooking is oil is a popular way to prepare flavorful food. Hot oil cooks the food through as it seals in flavor. Oil is high is fat and calories, so it should be used sparingly for the heart healthy and weight conscious. Oils should be used sparingly, but a certain amount of healthy oil is good for general health. Oils that are most often recommended for cooking are olive, canola, sesame, safflower, sunflower and soy.

Types of Oil

According to the American Heart Association, in their article “Choosing Fry Products,” there are different categories of oils. light to medium duty oils, heavy duty oils and liquid butter substitutes. Choose the right type of oil for the type of cooking you do.

Light to Medium Oils are used for salad dressings, marinades, sauteing, stir frying and deep frying. These cooking oils break down faster in high heat that heavy duty oils. Oils in this category need to be changes more often than heavy duty fry oils. Vegetable oils in this category include Olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil and soybean oil.

Heavy Duty Vegetable Oils are used for extended deep frying over longer periods of time. Restaurants use heavy duty oil or shortening in their deep fat fryers for a week or more.

Liquid Butter Substitutes are used for griddle and pan frying.

Saute or Stir Fry is Best Choice for Cooking in Oil

The healthiest methods for cooking in oil are sauteing and stir frying. These fast cooking methods use light duty oils and do not require a lot of oil for great results. The Mayo Clinic website recommends cutting food in small, uniform pieces for best cooking results in oil.

Oils for Sauteing or Stir Frying

The American Heart Association(AHA) recommends using olive, canola, corn or safflower oil as the main kitchen fat. The AHA also encourages consideration of alternative cooking methods, such as poaching, broiling or baking.

Olive Oil is a heart healthy oil that can be used for light frying. Extra Virgin olive oil is the most often recommended by health experts. Olive oil is more expensive than most other oils, which is a consideration. Home cooks probably are not using excessive amounts of oil in cooking, so a bottle of Olive oil can last a long time. This oil does have its own flavor, which may not be the best combination with the food. Many cooks like to use a more neutral flavored oil for cooking and save to olive oil for salad dressing.

Sesame Oil is a healthy oil that is often associated with Chinese cooking, making it a great choice for stir fry. Sesame oil does have a strong flavor, so use of this oil is a personal preference.

Canola Oil is made from canola plants. Canola has a light multipurpose oil, making it a popular choice.

Soy Oil

Sunflower Oil

Safflower Oil

Corn Oil

Cooking Oils to Avoid

Oils high in saturated fats should be avoided. Oils to avoid are coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, vegetable shorting, margarine and butter.